When Realme introduced their first laptop in August last year, it was a bit out of left field really. I personally wasn’t expecting Realme to dip their toes into the laptop scene, but as someone who’s big into PC stuff it certainly did catch my attention. However, when it did became official, I wasn’t exactly impressed so to speak.
The Realme Book as it was called seemed like pretty much every generic looking MacBook Air clone—well on paper at least. This wasn’t surprising of course, as many Chinese electronics manufacturers have their own versions of these MacBook-esque devices, such as the Huawei MateBook and Honor MagicBook. Realme’s own interpretation followed the same idea here, with an all aluminum body packing an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1135G7 with 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD on our unit.
Indeed, what originally started off as a regular review soon became a longer term prospect, with the Realme Book now my daily driver for work and portability. Having used it since September last year, I can safely say that I’m actually pretty happy with most of the Realme Book—keyword there being ‘most’ though.
It keeps its cool under pressure
As the midrange mobile processor of Intel’s 11th Gen U-series lineup, the 28W Intel Core i5-1135G7 under the hood here is certainly a capable chip, but it’s definitely not going to win any performance awards anytime soon. That being said though, Realme has done a fairly impressive job here with how they’ve set it up. Cinebench scores for example shows it beating a 15W Core i7-1165G7 in multicore performance and getting really close to the 28W Core i7-1165G7. Its single core results were really good too, again coming close to its Core i7 siblings and outperforming the likes of the Core i9-9880H.
Not only did the little Tiger Lake chip run at near optimum performance throughout Cinebench runs, it also gave an ‘Excellent’ result in Time Spy. I’ve dealt with a number of different devices already, which includes gaming machines such as the Acer Nitro 5 and Intel NUC 11 Extreme as well as creator-focused powerhouses like the MSI Creator Z16, and yet it was the Realme Book that was the first to give a result deemed Excellent, for the hardware used that is. It’s not actually going to beat the Nitro 5 in gaming of course, but compared to rival laptops with a similar spec, it seems as though Realme have gotten it right in configuring it.
Beyond the synthetic tests though, I have to admit that even in daily usage the Realme Book handles just about everything I need it for. Adobe Photoshop for instance runs fine even when I have multiple projects open at the same time, each with nearly or over 100 layers. This is on top of multiple Google Chrome windows and tabs open in the background as well as programs such as Discord, Slack and Spotify. You will see some lag in very heavy tasks though such as an extensive project in Adobe Photoshop or Premiere Pro, but that is perhaps to be expected when using a midrange laptop processor.
Furthermore, the Realme Book appears to handle cooling its silicon pretty good for the most part. The dual fans and two 8mm heat pipes aren’t much, but they do seem to maintain reasonable temperatures; I’ve only ever seen it peak to 98°C once and that was during benchmarking. It otherwise mostly idles at around the mid-40°C range, rising to between 50-60°C during regular daily use. In fact, it only ever hit the the mid-80°C mark during testing, long intensive use or gaming. The keyboard also never really warms up to become annoying during normal usage, but the chassis itself can sometimes get warm especially the area between the function row and the hinge as well as the vents on the bottom of the laptop.
And speaking of gaming, Intel has clearly made some big strides in the graphics department and the integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics the Realme Book comes with will do just fine for some light gaming here and then if you don’t mind lowering your settings. Some heavier titles like Total War: 3 Kingdoms will need you to lower the resolution too, though for the most part games are “playable” as long as playable to you doesn’t mean high settings at a 144fps.
It’s not always perfect though. The Realme Book we have comes with just 8GB of 4267MHz LPDDR4X RAM which really isn’t a lot these days. This means that yes, Adobe Photoshop runs just fine when I’m using it, but when I get back to my Chrome tabs, almost every tab needs to be refreshed as the browser pauses everything in the background due to a lack of memory. In fact, as I’m writing this, Task Manager shows memory usage at nearly full capacity. Personally, I’d think moving to 16GB of RAM would’ve made things much smoother, especially when you’re a heavy multitasker.
Battery life was also a little underwhelming. For my normal usage at work, when unplugged I only get around four to five hours of use. That being said, I do normally have plenty running in the background as mentioned earlier, and I do typically have my brightness settings maxed out. However, for something marketed as a thin-and-light laptop, I was expecting more out of the 54Whr battery especially as Realme advertises 11 hours of use. You could squeeze more out of it I guess by lowering the brightness and choosing a lower performance mode but it’s still a weak point for the Realme Book.
In comparison, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 had me going for about 10 hours at max brightness and performance modes. Hugely different price points of course, but I’m bringing up the Surface Laptop 4 because that’s honestly what I think of when I use the Realme Book.
Reminds me of the Microsoft Surface Laptop, in a good way
The Realme Book has a 14-inch, 3:2 IPS display with a 2160 x 1440p resolution, with an advertised 90% screen-to-body ratio and a peak brightness of 400nits. That 3:2 aspect ratio means that the display is nice and tall, providing much more screen real estate than a regular 16:9 or even the more common 16:10 displays we see in most laptops these days. It’s also the same aspect ratio that Microsoft uses for its Surface Laptop series, having first introduced it with the Surface Pro 3.
Now one great thing I liked about the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 in particular was that tall aspect ratio and how it allowed for better productivity as well as being great for content consumption. The same story returns in the Realme Book, albeit with a slightly lower resolution than the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 though at this size you’d hardly notice it. The Realme Book’s screen gets really nice and bright, and though it’s glossy still feels great to look at. I really like using it for watching YouTube and Netflix in particular thanks to how bright and clear it is.
If I really had to nitpick the display, it’s that the Corning Gorilla Glass layer doesn’t extend all the way to the edge. Instead, there’s a plastic bezel that doesn’t sit flush with the display. It really is just a minor nitpick though, and didn’t bother me in the slightest. Also, it’s a 60Hz display, but again, it’s not a gaming laptop or anything even close to that so 60Hz is fine with me.
The audio coming from the Realme Book though isn’t as great as the display. You’ll find that the downfiring speakers don’t offer too much in terms of a full, bass-y sound. They do get reasonably loud though, and are also pretty clear. But compared to the likes of the MacBook Air, there’s an obvious lack of ‘oomph’ in the audio coming from the Realme Book. It’s not a huge criticism of the Realme Book’s speakers but perhaps a highlight of how good Apple does their speakers. Besides, combined with the excellent display, the audiovisual experience of the Realme Book is actually quite decent overall.
Surprisingly built like a rock
Where I will give Realme a lot of credit is just how well built the Realme Book is. I’ve been using it for months now, and while there’s a couple of tiny little scuffs and bumps, the Realme Book has so far actually been a sturdy ol’ laptop. The screen doesn’t really move around a lot when bumped, and overall it feels hefty, but in a good way—the laptop comes in at about 1.38kg so not the lightest, but the solid sandblasted aluminum body and finish together with its weight makes it feel quite premium when using it. Besides, with its 14.9mm thin frame, it’s very portable and fits snugly in my backpack.
Similarly, the typing experience on the Realme Book is fairly good too. There’s an alright amount of travel with each key, and the keycaps themselves don’t really wobble around. And thanks to how well built it is, there’s very little deck flex unless you’re really pushing it hard. The touchpad too is nice and large, and my fingers can easily glide about. The clicks on the touchpad is really satisfying too. As for I/O, there’s only two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack and a single USB-A port. It’s not much, and I would’ve preferred a second USB-A port too, but it’s not a huge dealbreaker. The included 720p webcam isn’t great either, being somewhat grainy but still usable when it comes to video conferencing.
However, I do have a problem with the keyboard layout on the Realme Book. First off, the function keys have been set so that they instead trigger the special functions like volume control and toggling the touchpad, rather than actually being F1-F12. Instead, to trigger F1-F12, you need to press the Fn key along with the function key you want. So for example, trying to enter Alt+F4 on the Realme Book ends up being Alt+Fn+F4 instead.
Normally, that’s not much of an issue as most laptop manufacturers allow you to swap between being special functions of F1-F12 in the BIOS, but for some reason Realme decided not to support swapping between the two. It’s annoying to say the least, and I’m not really sure why they thought it would be good to take away this customisation choice. And plus, despite having function row default to special functions, there’s no media control keys like play and pause either.
It’s a solid debut for Realme in the laptop game
In the bigger scheme of things, the Realme Book is still a very good laptop, and for their first ever laptop is a surprisingly capable machine that could mean even better things to come. With that being said, it should be noted though that the Realme Book isn’t exactly a cheap laptop, with the official pricing as below:
Now there’s actually supposed to be a third configuration available with 16GB of RAM, but it seems as though it’s no longer on sale as it’s not on their official Shopee store anymore. However, Realme Malaysia’s website still says that the Realme Book has up to 16GB of RAM, with it costing RM3,999. We’ve reached out to Realme Malaysia for some clarification here, and will update once we have an answer.
The Realme Book faces stiff competition though in the thin-and-light space, with the Acer Swift 3 for instance priced at RM3,199 for an Intel Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM and 512GB of storage as well. There’s also the aforementioned Huawei MateBook 14 with the same silicon too, but that will set you back even more as it’s priced at RM4,599. Of course, regardless of which laptop you end up getting, I’d highly recommend getting them only when there’s a sale, seeing as manufacturers are expected to release newer versions of these laptops soon with Intel and AMD’s latest generation of mobile processors.
But going back to the Realme Book, if you do end up with one for yourself for normal usage such as word processing and some mild content creation or even light gaming on the side, you’ll likely be pretty content with it. Do I think it’s the laptop to get? Well, not exactly, as it’s slightly pricey for the silicon you’re getting, but that’s mostly because I prefer to seek out performance. If you want something with a fantastic display and good enough hardware though, the Realme Book will likely be alright for you. It’s also a great option for the non-gamer who wants a portable machine for university and the like.
With such a strong showing on their first ever laptop I can’t wait to see their next one. In fact, it might not take long too, as they actually already have the Realme Book Enhanced Edition in China, though that’s a much more competent device using the Intel Core i5-11320H instead. Realme has a potential star in their Realme Book series here, and as long as they build on their original Realme Book they ought to be a mainstay of the thin-and-light laptop scene for some time to come.